Nowhere but Here

“One time we made chocolate butter. It was absolutely the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen—slimy, terrible.”

Sad to say, not all the pastries here are wonderful. I sampled an icky piece of cherry pie ($2) that was cornstarchy and gummy. And I have to come out against the crazy, ten-inch-long, four-inch-wide biscotti ($2), a boomerang-size slice of that Italian, twice-baked cookie that, here, is iced with chocolate and coated with powdered sugar. I just can't handle the thing; it tastes fine, but it's so big it's unseemly, like one of those five-pound, eat-it-all-and-get-it-for-free steaks. Melody Livingston doesn't care, though; she has handpicked all the pastries in her case, from small bakers she admires.

Most of the baked treats, including the amazing Danish and turnovers, come from A Baker's Wife, a south Minneapolis business too small to make deliveries. Livingston also picks up her whole wheat, lumpen, utterly old-fashioned apple dumplings ($2.75) from a "grandma with a stand and an orchard" on Highway 169.

And Livingston prides herself on relationships like the one with the apple-dumpling lady. For example, she gets her coffee from a family farm in Mexico. It came about one day when a brother from the farm came into the coffee shop and explained how the family roasted the coffee beans over a fire made from the trimmings from the coffee plants. As soon as she got a taste of the well-balanced, smooth coffee, Livingston says she knew she had to have it. "That's what I believe in, buying products right from the hands of the people who baked them, the people who picked them," she says. "It feels so empowering to be able to do that, to not pay a middleman and make sure that everyone's getting a fair price for what they do. Do you realize you have to pick one coffee bean at a time? That's how coffee's harvested, and they get paid squat--except my guys. I just don't think it's right. It's like today, there's two economies, one for the worker bees who do all the work, and another one where people make money almost magically. I'm with the old economy, I'm sitting here working, working, working, and all these young kids just went zoom ahead of me. There's a lot of anger in society about it."

Tony Nelson

Location Info

Map

Livingston's Organic Coffee

2037 Riverside Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Category: Restaurant > Coffeehouse

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

If you're in a mood for a good dose of such homespun wisdom, my advice is to grab an ice-cream soda or a cup of coffee--priced from a $1 a cup for eight ounces of plain-brewed java to $2.95 for a 16-ounce organic-milk latte--and settle in at the door to Livingston's hair salon and eavesdrop as she spars with the handful of longtime clients she's kept trimmed for the last two decades. One afternoon I got to hear a failed romance dissected, complete with bitter punch lines and raucous laughter. Soon enough, another local hobbled in on her cane, and was greeted with a shout of "You're walking! Wow! Good for you!" As I sat there watching the leggy houseplants rattle in the wake of trucks rumbling down Riverside Avenue, my great-grandma-style farm-fresh ice cream dissolving in my great-grandma-style, Wisconsin-raw-honey-infused root beer, I was overcome with that rarest of contemporary feelings: This was unmistakably nowhere but here.

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